Pawel Althamer

Abram and Buruś
Sculpture, bronze cast

By subjecting himself to hypnosis, Pawel Althamer saw himself as a young Jewish boy wandering with his dog amongst the burning ruins of Warsaw. The sculpture is a kind of bozzetto, a small first visualization for a larger sculpture, based on a drawing made by Althamer after the hypnosis session in 2003. The actual sculpture based on this model was made in 2008 and installed in front of the block of flats in which Paweł Althamer lived together with his family in the district Bródno Warsaw, at 13 Krasnobrodzka Street.

Abram and Buruś is a proposal of a non-monument for a city full of pompous monuments that commemorate historical events. Althamer questions the essence of a sculpture-monument – its scale, its seemingly timeless character and social significance. Using traditional sculpture techniques however in small format, Althamer transforms it into an object on a plinth, overwhelmed by the gigantic 1970s tower blocks around it. Against this backdrop, an individual, private story becomes embedded in collective memory.

The session was part of the project So-called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind (So gennante Wellen und andere Phänomene des Geistes), a joint exhibition conceived by Althamer and Żmijewski at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen in Düsseldorf in 2003. The installation of Abram and Buruś in Bródno is one of many projects carried out by Althamer for the district, where he has lived since he was a child. In 2009 he initiated the long-term project called Sculpture Park in Bródno, which involves invited artists, local inhabitants, self-government members, and representatives of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.

Paweł Althamer (*1967 in Warsaw), studied at the at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw and lives and works in Warsaw.

In collaboration with Artur Żmijewski
Video, 29 min. 30 sec.
Sound: Marcin Bocinski, Editing: Leszek Molski

A portrayal of a pilgrimage undertaken by a Polish group of Catholic faith to visit the most important places relating to the life of Christ in the Holy Land. Althamer and Żmijewski take part in this journey as one of those frequently organized for Polish believers and document the group’s activities and responses to their environment: Singing, praying, kissing the ground of the Nativity Grotto, following the Way of the Cross and bowing before the Holy Sepulchre. The pilgrims later dedicate themselves to spiritual shopping: Rosaries, crosses which are sold by Arab merchants. With their small camera, Althamer and Żmijewski document not only the spiritual rituals of the group, but also the atmosphere developing in response to the journey and the fact that the most important places of worship for Catholics are situated on Jewish and Arab territory, a mixture of fear and perplexity, worship and aversion.

Zmijewski explains his motifs for the journey: ›I was interested in the opposition between the pious intention of undertaking a pilgrimage to the spiritual sources of Christian faith and the fact that the most holy site of the Polish Catholics happens to be in the land of the Jews. This represents a fundamental conflict, for the pilgrims have never admitted the existence of Israel. From their point of view, this land was stolen from its rightful owners, the Arabs. (…) It is a black and white picture: the Jews have oppressed the Palestinians, who have suffered


    Pawel Althamer: ›Abram and Buruś‹, 2003, sculpture. Photo: Małgorzata Kujda
    Exhibition view Muzeum Współczesne Wrocław. Photo: Małgorzata Kujda